About nine p.m., Santo comes in.
She is crying. She says, ‘She ’s
not so good,sweetheart,’ with the downward
inflection of bad news, and I know it is worse
than that. I plead with the ceiling. Shake my
‘They want to wheel you
around to see her before she leaves for Brisbane.’
Suddenly it is like a military
operation as I am wheeled from the room and
down corridors towards an even wider corridor.The
neon ceiling lights pass like a movie cliché.
She is hidden inside a huge machine,
a portable humidicrib,which sits blinking lights
and vital signs,flaps pulled over to regulate
The paediatrician from Brisbane,
a man with soft, sorry eyes, introduces himself
and tells me she is sedated for the journey
and they are just about to leave.That it has
taken some time to prepare her to travel,that
they will airlift her to Brisbane where they
will try one last machine,but they don ’t
hold out much hope for her survival. I search
his eyes for better news but he keeps the same
sorry gaze fixed on me.
lift the flaps so I can look at her a last time.The
stitches strain to break as I try to lift myself.
Someone helps prop me up and there she is,on
her side,naked except for a nappy and a little
white woollen bonnet.Tubes down her nose and
mouth, monitors attached to her chest, no room
left for a mother to stroke. Except her forehead.
I stroke it but she is not there. Her arm is
stretched out, her hand cups the air. I place
my finger in her palm,hoping to feel her tiny
fingers grip me with the instinct of a newborn,but
there is no response. And I know then that she
has lost her grip on life.
I look on her, trying to drink
her in, torn between wanting it to last forever
and wanting her to be rushed to the machine
that might be her only chance of life. I whisper
I lie down and they cover the
humidicrib again.I plead something at the doctor
like, Please try as hard as you can. He nods
sadly and says, ‘We better go now,’
and they move away.
I am turned and pushed in the
other direction and as she slips away from me
a cry rises from the depth of all the grief
I ’ve ever known. Santo covers my eyes
with her hand and I reach to my mouth to stifle
this horrible moan in so public a place. I am
wheeled back to the room and wait to hear the
helicopter take off. A nurse gives me a sleeping
pill and I am gone. My vigil is over. She is
in others’ hands now and all that is left
to do is surrender to my exhaustion.
Thin Pink Line
- October 2000